Archive for the ‘chuck jones’ tag
My wife and I snuck off to see the Oscar-nominated animated shorts at the local theater before they disappeared into the void on Friday. It was an immensely pleasant experience, in part because these short films are clearly labors of love, crafted by people who may be taking their first shot at a film with (modestly) wide distribution, so it is easy to feel sympathy for the creators. And, heck, even if you don’t like a film it’s only going to last about 8 minutes, right?
Catch a run-down of all the short films here: http://www.shortshd.com/theoscarshorts/ (They are also all available to purchase from iTunes.) Here are four highlights from the ten or so shorts that we watched.
Although this film had more apparent flaws than many others of the night, it easily packed the most laughs over its six minutes. Watch the whole film below.
Wallace and Gromit are two of the most beloved characters in film history, and any new episode in their on-going adventures is to be treasured. Nick Park has refined the stop-motion animation style into its definitive form over the last two decades. This adventure is nearly identical in plot to the earlier ones (Wallace falls for a girl, hijinx ensue, Gromit saves the day), but that’s not why we watch. We watch because we are cinephiles or Anglophiles, punsters or funsters, have kids or feel like kids. These films are so sweet-natured, even in their frightening sequences, that they infect you with good cheer. (And a craving for stinky cheeses.) A Matter of Loaf and Death is more franticly pace than earlier installments, with faster cuts (which means more set-ups for Park and friends). I can’t wait for the next one.
The winner for best animated short at the Academy Awards was Logorama, which was perhaps an even more pointed political statement than giving a documentary award to Michael Moore. This was easily the most daring and conceptually innovative film of the night. Constructed almost completely out of brand logos, the film reads like a big postmodern joke at the way in which American culture is saturated with corporate branding. When the film’s story get’s going, it reveals a similarly postmodern mash-up of Tarantino dialogue, Michael Bay action sequences, and CNN round-the-clock “news” coverage. However, like many such attempts to skewer advertising, it must do so by becoming an advertisement. When watching the film, you look for all the fleeting jokes (that’s a GOP elephant! that mountain says The North Face!), so you end up searching out the very corporate brands that the film presumably wants you to dismiss. As one-time viewing, perhaps we can see this as an important step: we raise our consciousness of how steeped in branding our culture is, so that we can defiantly reject it. But in doing so, we give an audience to the very images we are supposed to reject.
Watch the first 45 seconds below.
My favorite film of the night was also took a strong ethical stand, but more effectively than Logorama, partly because it did so only casually. To avoid the spoilers that follow, watch all of La Dama y la Muerte before continuing. (Don’t skip the closing credits.)
The frantic chase sequences recalls Looney Tunes, but does so in an innovative, visually daring style unto itself. It begins in a realist mode (the bedroom), but quickly devolves into a hyper-real locale (the hospital room), and continues in an exaggeration of the classic Chuck Jones style (the morgue). So it’s fun to watch. But it’s also a surprisingly touching story of a woman who is prepared to die but is forced back to life by a doctor. (“Famous Doctor Saves Another Miserable Life” reads the magazine cover on the wall. “I feel like a god.”) More effectively than Million Dollar Baby, it presents a way of understanding how a person might choose to end their life with dignity rather than continue it. Perhaps because of its Spanish origins, the film presents a mythology that combines Catholicism (there is an afterlife where we can see our loved ones), Indo-European folklore (the Grim Reaper), and classical Greek mythology (River Styx, Cerberus) to pose a challenge to medical technology that can prolong life. Perhaps most remarkably (and in direct defiance to Catholicism) it gets a laugh out of suicide, and leaves the viewer accepting that this was perhaps the right choice for the woman.
This points to an overall theme for these assorted animated shorts (and, come to think of it, for this website), which is that pop culture can be revealing in the stories it tells us about who we are and the lives we live. Even eight-minute cartoons can be expressions of attitude or summaries of philosophical thought experiments about how we do think or how we should think about the world we encounter. Euthanasia, the afterlife, how advertising affects our perception of the world, how our experiences shape the stories we tell about the world. Heady stuff for simple cartoons.